Leaving personal slavery: lessons from Pesach (class notes)

Last night I watched the recording of a JLI class that had been given for free earlier in the day (but I had a work meeting at the time). The class is Leaving our personal slavery: 10 lessons from Passover for the whole year. taught by Sara Esther Crispe. I don't know anything about the teacher; I went there because I've taken several JLI courses (in the classroom, not online).

What follows are basically my running notes as I listened (and occasionally backed up to hear something again, so I guess it's just as well I missed the livestream). Some of this might sound a little pithy or trite summarized here; I encourage you to listen to the talk (44 minutes) before drawing a negative conclusion just based on my notes.

In English the book is called Exodus, but in Hebrew it's Sh'mot, Names. To leave something which enslaves you, you need to know who you are. Slavery is dehumanizing, taking away your name, reducing people to numbers. When someone tries to strip our identity, that is the foundation of enslaved reality - we have no voice, nobody is going to believe us.

Nobody escapes Mitzrayim (Egypt); we all are there at some point in our lives -- not having freedom of movement, expression, thought. Egypt is something we all go through. It's part of our journey. The same God who put us there takes us out.

It's not "what can I do to escape Egypt", but "what will I learn from the Egypt I'm in?". How do I discover who I am so I can be free?

10 lessons:

1 - Knowing your name is essential.

2 - What doesn't kill you makes you stronger -- we can allow what beats us down to paralyze us, or we can let it push us to grow. We're so constricted that we're forced to break out because there's nowhere else to go.

3 - Passion can overcome fear; if we believe strongly enough we won't even see the potential barriers. (Miriam confronting her parents in their separation -- uncomfortable, but she was right, she was passionate, she spoke up and got them back together and they had Moshe.)

4 - Learn to be flexible and switch roles. Miriam parenting her parents; Yochevet as nursemaid to her son; Miriam as negotiator w/Paro's daughter to save Moshe's life. Story of her friend pumping milk to save another child after hers died -- of all the things she could have done, who would have thought that would be her biggest impact?

5 - We are never stuck; we can reinvent ourselves when truly committed. The rabbis say Bat Paro (daughter of Paro) intended to convert to Judaism; Bat Paro became Bat Ya. Paro = peh ra, evil mouth. She comes from that and transforms her life to become metaphorical daughter of God (and raises Moshe who will redeem Yisrael).

6 - Nothing is out of reach if we want it desperately enough, but we'll never know until we try. Batya saw the child's life needed to be saved and she reached out even though he was too far away and miraculously succeeded. People lift cars off of victims. If you think about it, it won't happen. When we see something needs to be done, we believe limitations won't get in the way and miracles can happen. (Nachon ben Aminadav -- innovator, persistent believer.)

7 - True acts of kindness we do are never forgotten, even if we're not aware of their impact. Moshe got his name from Batya, not his mother -- it's the name that sticks, the name God uses. Act of kindness from Batya has lasting effect. We don't know the impact when we smile at a stranger, speak to someone, offer a kind word...

8 - Only when we see the possibility of what can be do we recognize how badly our situation needs to change. We had to hit rock bottom in Mitzrayim before we realized how difficult it was. Nowhere to go but up. Everything's been stripped away; what can we leave behind, where should we focus, where can we make an impact? Time to refocus and rethink. What matters?

9 - When presented w/opportunity to do the right thing, don't let insecurity stand in your way. If opportunity came your way, you're meant to step up. Be humble but don't let it prevent you from acting. Moshe's humility at bush: "why me?". Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. If you can do something, doesn't matter if someone else could do it better -- you're here; do it.

10 - We can say we're not strong/good enough, but we can't say God isn't; we're never alone. Moshe - I'm slow of speech, and everything's going to depend on speech (negotiation) -- but God says "who makes a man's mouth? isn't it me? I will teach you what you should say".

If we're put in a situation, if we have the ability to influence, there's a reason. We have to be willing to switch roles, do what's needed, know our deeds are lasting and impactful, remember where abilities and opportunities come from.

"Do not tell God how big your problems are; tell your problems how big your God is" -- we might not be able to deal with our problems, but God can. We are never alone. "When I sit in darkness, God is my light."